The chaotic restart of tourism in Thailand continues as the on-off reopening of Bangkok is delayed.
Main picture boats on the Chao Praya River in Bangkok, Thailand
Earlier in the summer the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, announced a 120 day plan to reopen much of Thailand to international tourists, including Bangkok. This was despite Thailand being in the midst of its largest Covid-19 outbreak, centred on the city.
Confirmation came later that the planned reopening for Bangkok was to be 1st October.
On 6th September we reported that the opening would be delayed due to the slow vaccination roll-out in Bangkok. However just days later the Thai government announced that they were still working towards a 1st October start date, but that it may be limited to certain districts in the city.
Today however the Bangkok Post are reporting that the slow vaccine roll-out programme in the city will indeed see a delay until 15th October. Just 37% of the Bangkok population is currently fully inoculated against Covid-19 with a further 33% have received their first jab.
The change seems to have been prompted about concerns, previously raised in these pages, regarding how a limited district reopening would be practical and achievable without restricting tourists to hotels unless they were travelling on pre-arranged, approved, tours and sealed routes.
“The quarantine-free entry via Bangkok will benefit the whole country as tourists usually visit Bangkok as their first destination before travelling to other provinces. With the 7+7 extension plan which will be enabled at the same time, tourists can stay in the capital city for just seven days and choose another 8 provinces in the pilot reopening programme as their second choice.” Mr Phiphat said.Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, Thailand Tourism and Sports Minister via Bangkok Post
The Prime Minister has now been reported as asking ministries to speed up preparations to restart tourism in further areas of Thailand as high season rapidly approaches.
There are hopes that the Phuket Sandbox, the pilot tourism plan, can be expanded so that more islands secure areas with international airports can also become Tourist Area Sandbox locations.
Following the Prime Ministers call the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has released new guidelines which state [source The Nation Thailand]:
- Survey what areas can be reopened under sandbox conditions in line with the Phuket Sandbox scheme. If they are islands, they can join the 7+7 sandbox extension. If they are areas that have airports, then a system can be set up to conduct Covid-19 tests on new arrivals.
- Come up with prevention and control measures in areas that will be opened. Ensure locals are prepared and make enough vaccines available to curb the spread of the virus.
- See if the areas to be reopened have enough hospital beds and medics to treat patients should infections spread.
Thailand Reopening Plan
The reopening plan in Thailand has always been ambitious and closely monitored by other countries in the region hoping to safely revive their tourism industry.
The Phuket Sandbox was launched on 1st July and has seen more than 32,000 foreign tourists arrive on the popular holiday island.
The Sandbox has not been all plane sailing however as increasing Covid cases, largely unrelated to tourism, resulted in closure of bars and entertainment venues, putting off many prospective travellers.
The Samui Plus programme launched on 15th July but has seen much lower tourist numbers due to the heavy restriction in place.
The 7+7 Extension is however seen as being the solution to many of the problems being encountered. The plan would see tourists visiting specified areas for the first 7 days of their trip before being able to move to extension areas for a further 7 days. Multi-centre holidays were the most common trip pre-pandemic in Thailand.
There are also plans to simplify travel rules and set consistent requirements in all reopening areas to reduce the confusion on entry rules and requirements.
It’s not just Bangkok that has been struggling to meet the reopening schedule which has been under constant pressure and changes since it was launched.
The latest plan is to follow a two-phase reopening [source The Nation Thailand]:
- Phase 1 from 1st October – Areas ready to reopen under sandbox schemes.
- Phase 2 from 15th October or 1st November – Reopening destinations that either have cultural attractions, mountains or seas in the North and the East of the country.
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